The biblical term for thoughts which are negative is referred to as a stronghold, an area in which we are held in bondage (in prison) due to a certain way of thinking . For example a daily negative thought pattern for me, when suffering depression, would run like this: “life is not worth living, I am worthless and I will never be happy again”. This train of thought would play over and over in my mind keeping me oppressed, depressed and in bondage, a prisoner held captive by my thoughts.
You may be experiencing this battle with a negative thought life right at this moment, maybe you have strongholds in your mind, scripts you have been playing for years and you’re not even sure how they got there. Let me encourage you, God is on your side He will not forsake you.
There is a war going on and your mind is the battlefield but here’s the thing, as Satan attempts to build strongholds in your mind rest assured we have all the weapons we need to tear down the strongholds. Strongholds in the mind are, in essence, deceptive lies and false beliefs. The Bible has promised you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). I believe what Jesus was saying is that the truth (God’s word) is our primary weapon for tearing down strongholds. Consider it this way, the opposite to a lie is truth, therefore the more time you spend immersed in truth (reading the Bible, hearing Biblical teaching) the light of God is shed upon the darkness, the lies in your mind.
Without question the truth will dispel the darkness, that my friend, is the power of God’s word! Take a simple example of walking into a dark room, we switch the light on and the dark is gone instantly, light and dark cannot coexist and so it is with truth and a lie so go ahead ‘switch some lights on’ disempower Satan’s ability to influence your thoughts. X
Before we can heal the soul we must first understand what is the soul? God has created us as a triune being, we are spirit which has a soul and lives in a body. In pursuit of healing the soul it is most important to understand the soul consists of the mind (which includes the conscience), the will and the emotions.
The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together and make up what the Scriptures call the “heart.” The writer of Proverbs declares, “ Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23 NKJV). We see here that our “heart” is central to our will and emotions, * “ for out of it are the issues of life; of natural life: it is the seat of it, from whence all actions of life are derived; it is, as philosophers say, the first that lives, and the last that dies”.
So in healing the soul we must watch with all diligence, guarding the heart from all that would cause the spring, the stream of life that proceeds from it, to be sealed up. Failure to guard the heart will leave our spirit and soul vulnerable to fear-based living, a heart where no life flows, a life personified as a ‘dead-man walking’ carrying a depressed heart.
Purpose in your heart to continue talking to God about how you are feeling, or simply praise Him for His promises, as you do this your soul will be renewed, or as my counsellor once put it ‘pray, God re-boot me to the manufacturers original default settings’. Think about this, if all the thoughts you’ve had up until this point has not made you feel any better, have another thought. As you pursue God He will eclipse your fears, broaden your horizons, change your perspective and you will have another thought, a thought which comes from His heart and you will begin to see yourself and your circumstances as He does… through eyes of faith, hope and love. Rejoice in this truth – now there’s a thought!
Forgiveness… undeserved, unearned, you might say: ‘well no one understands what they did to me, what was said about me’. From the Gospels’ accounts, Jesus had every reason to be bitter, angry and unforgiving. Amidst brutal circumstances, He said, “Forgive them…” betrayed, falsely accused, whipped, beaten and spat on he was then nailed to a cross by them. As the crowd continued to taunt and curse him and His life slowly fading away He did not seek justice or vengeance.
Forgiveness, or I like to call it ‘absorbing the debt’, refusing to make them pay for what they did, I believe, is the hardest and most courageous step towards healing and complete peace. On the subject of forgiveness Timothy Keller explains how by wanting to make the perpetrators suffer for what they have done will not give you peace “Cycles of reaction and retaliation can go on for years. Evil has been done to you – yes. But when you try to get payment through revenge the evil does not disappear. Instead it spreads, and it spreads most tragically of all into you and your own character”.
It was only a few months ago when I sat in prayer and asked God, “Why am I not completely peaceful and why have you not given me joy like you promise in your word?, I am not moving from this chair until you heal me… completely!” I waited for an answer and started to reflect on all the steps I had taken towards getting well, countless counselling sessions, prayer, exercise, etc. As my mind wandered (still waiting for God to answer) I recalled the most hurtful moments of my past and thanked God for healing me from the emotional pain. Upon examining my feelings I realised the memories still affected me, not in a hurtful, saddening manner as they had for so many years. What was rising up in my spirit was anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.
Needless to say, God had answered my demanding prayer by showing me that my final healing was to be found in letting go of the unforgiveness I held so tightly. Holding onto unforgiveness seemed to be my last chance at vengeance and justice to those that had wronged me. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness!
Crazy thing about a ‘payback’ mindset is the paying back seldom affects those who have wronged you. The unforgiving heart doesn’t heal, in fact bitterness and anger controlled me more and more as the years went by. Ask yourself, how does your holding onto unforgiveness work to hurt the other person? Does it really make you feel peace, joy… a sense of true happiness?
The issue isn’t whether the person who hurt you deserves to be forgiven, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. In my experience the hurting one is the unforgiving soul, much like a snake bite if you were to be bitten (hurt by someone) the snake takes off into the bush and your left with the venom (un forgiveness) do you get the picture? The snake isn’t concerned about how much venom you have pumping through your veins, he’s gone about his life as if not much has changed. On the other hand if the anti-venom (forgiveness) is not administered to the victim of a snake bite her health will deteriorate rapidly and possibly become fatal.
The importance of forgiveness toward others is a matter which must be addressed if we are to experience peace, joy and happiness. Just as your spirit and soul will flourish when you offer forgiveness, so to your physical being will begin complete healing. Go ahead… just like the Psalmist cried out “Create in me a pure heart…” allow God to purify your heart towards others and in the words of our Saviour “Forgive them”. X
Faith and doubt are not opposite’s, in fact they’re often part of the same journey. When we wrestle with doubts, not just our own but those of our friends, family and strangers we eventually come to a position of stronger faith well able to provide answers to the sceptics and at the same time having a deeper understanding of those who doubt.
In his book ‘The Reason for God’, pastor and author, Timothy Keller suggests we look at doubt in a radical new way, as such that we see doubt as normal and perhaps welcome our doubts as building block to a stronger foundation of faith: “A faith without some doubt is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenceless against either the experience of a tragedy or the probing questions of a smart sceptic”.
Keller implores believers to look for reasons behind their faith, failing to do so, he writes: “A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection”. Personally, my faith has been lukewarm for most of my adult life, up until I experienced the tragedy of losing my children, faith for me was something I had inherited, a set of beliefs that were passed on.
Amidst great pain and sorrow my faith did ‘collapse overnight’ I carried doubt and unbelief for at least two years and believed my doubts were an abomination to God. I was certain God would not heal me from depression so long as I was consumed with doubts about who He was and the promises in His word, doubt, I considered, was sin… isn’t it? Not according to Jesus.
Let me introduce you to my favourite disciple, Thomas, also known as ‘doubting Thomas’ his story resonates with many of us that have battled with reasoning, doubt and unbelief.
Now, Thomas, for whatever reason we do not know, was missing when Jesus first appeared, notice in the following verses the grace of Jesus as He was faithful to accommodate Thomas, even in his unbelief.
“ 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”” John 24 -27 NKJV
In the end it was his doubt, his desire to know Jesus for himself, was what brought Thomas to his faith.
So we see here faith and doubt are not opposites, it is possible to have faith with doubt, to believe with unbelief. Faith and indifference are more opposite than faith and doubt. Doubt is often a key part of the journey of faith. It’s a detour, if you will, along the path of faith. I assure you when you find yourself taking a ‘doubt detour’you’re certainly not alone and most importantly you must know and believe it’s not an indication of you being a bad Christian or a disbeliever. God will bless and honour the very little faith you do have no matter how weak or how small.
Most of us find difficulty in believing our prayers or more so even just making time for prayer. Life is busy, we hurry through our prayers (when we remember to pray), our minds drift to thoughts of what’s for dinner etc. our focus is scattered and everywhere but on God.
Prayer is simply conversation with God, no set time or location and minimal effort required and yet so many believers struggle with taking time to talk with God.
Max Lucado expressed our struggle with prayer as: “… you’d think we were wrestling a greased pig”. Prayer is an effective and powerful tool and the enemy knows this, he pulls all stocks in an effort to hinder your commitment to prayer. Our adversary knows what happens when we pray, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4 MSG)
Lucado writes: “…Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter’s cell …” be encouraged to pick up your ‘God-tools’ and watch as the enemy cowers, Lucado continues “Satan is not troubled when Max writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobbly knees tremble when Max prays. Satan does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings.
Demons aren’t flustered when you read this book. But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, “Oh, God how great thou art.” Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let’s do”.
When you pray… be rest assured God already knows what you need. He has a divine purpose for every situation you face, so instead of crying out save me or bless me, may I encourage you to move beyond fear-based praying, disarm your self-interests and enter into a prayer life based on love, for His love will never fail you. Love-based prayers assert trust in a Heavenly Father that is Sovereign and always has your best interest at the centre of His heart…now you go, wrestle those greased pigs! x
God wants to heal you from depression, anxiety, shame, addiction and whatever else holds you captive, He wants you to dream again, to dream big and fulfil the God-given purpose you were created for! As the New Year approaches may I urge you to establish a vision for your life that captures your heart and imagination, something so big that you become purpose-driven. For this to happen you must first confront your captors, those past hurts, habits, and unforgiveness must be dealt with before you can launch out into a new life of complete freedom and joy, ready to dream again, to truly live again!. Doing this requires courage, plenty of it! Author Bob Gass writes: “On the heels of every dream there’s a demon of doubt. No sooner is your dream conceived than your mind is suddenly filled with all the reasons why it may not work…” Your inner dialogue may go something like this:, receiving prayer ‘doesn’t really work’, going to a counselor ‘may be a waste of time’, I have been this way for so long now I doubt anything will ever change… this is ‘just the way I am’… “ and there will be folks around you who’ll be quick to confirm those fears. In spite of doubt and fear, you must forge ahead and dream; otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life fulfilling the dreams of others”. It is time to stand firm and declare you will not stay this way, break free from the shackles of fear, God has more for you than you have been settling for. ‘Rise up; this matter is in your hands… take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4
If you’ve ever tried to ‘just forget it’ move on, ‘let it go’, you will know that it is very difficult to switch off from the pain associated to hurtful memories. For many years I tried to wipe away painful memories through a season of being bulimic, drinking too much alcohol, hypnotherapy, sessions with new age practitioners calling upon the Universe as if it was some magic genie that would wipe away the past!
All attempts I made to be complete and happy were futile until I came to the complete end of myself, I’d hit rock bottom and from there I found myself running back to the arms of Jesus. In my quite times with Jesus, reading His Word and in prayer, I have learned of His affection for me, His perspective of me and His interpretation of who I am… when you take hold of a Heavenly perspective of yourself it changes everything!
You are His beloved, He delights in you and longs to see you set free; “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 (NKJV).
In these clear-cut words Jesus revealed that the key to freedom lies in knowing Him, knowing what His word says about you and your life. Our earthly reference to love cannot be compared to God’s love for us, the gospel of John defines what love is; “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us”.1 John 3:16 (NKJV). Jesus is saying to you today, you are worth dying for, your worth is priceless, you are loved. Earthly, human love is fickle, people are always falling in and falling out of love but the love of Jesus endures forever. Amazing, awesome… word’s fail to capture the profound expression of God’s love for us, the wonder for me is how would my life change, what sort of person would I be, if I could grasp, I mean truly believed the scripture testimony of God’s extravagant love for me?
Brennan Manning tells the story of an old Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”
My prayer for you is that you will allow God to take your past hurts, be healed of them so as you can really begin to live. In spite of what others say and think about you, may you gain a heavenly perspective of just how amazing and wonderfully loved you are… and yes, He is very fond of YOU x
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me Psalm 42:7
Psalm 42 tells of a deer that longs for a refreshing stream, verse 5-7 speaks of the sons of Korah struggling with depression as deep calls unto deep. I believe this is a cry from the deepest part of our soul, desperate for intimacy with God a cry that say’s i’m completely overwhelmed from the trials that have come across me . In the months ahead of Jaeya’s birth I would experience a place where, like the deer with nothing to quench her thirst, I was desperate to believe in God, I longed to experience His heart and all He is, to drink of the living water, to go deeper in Him. This longing came from the depths of my soul, completely cast down with nowhere else to go, the Lord said ‘go deeper’. In my experience, going deeper, desiring to know God more intimately brings your faith under trial as seen in the story of Job, he was tried and his latter end of life was more blessed than his beginning, his faith was deeper, fortified and proven. Perhaps you have cried out ‘Jesus I want to know you, are you real, do you hear my cries’? Don’t be surprised if He takes you aside into a furnace of fiery trials for a while. There is great purpose in our suffering, like a refiner of precious silver or gold, the heat is turned up as high as needed for the dross, the impurities of the metal, to float to the surface. To his delight, after he has skimmed the dross from the surface, the refiner can see his reflection and the precious metal is ‘proven to be real’. Jesus takes the impurities that surface in our ‘furnace of suffering’, and although painful, the Great refiner knows what is necessary in order for His precious one to be all that she was created to be. Beyond the refining process He smiles, for now she reflects His glory. Perfected through trial & suffering our Lord makes something precious, a someone beautiful… so precious and so beautiful that priceless is your worth!
“Are not my troubles intended to deepen my character and to robe me in graces I had little of before? I come to my glory through eclipses, tears, death. My ripest fruit grows against the roughest wall. Job’s afflictions left him with higher conceptions and lowlier thoughts of himself. “Now,” he cried “my eye seeth thee”. Streams in the Desert, Oct 4. Pg. 294
Here’s a little snippet from my book “Beautiful, Courageous You” due out early 2013…
On the precipice of denying my faith and completely giving up on ever feeling joy again, I made an appointment to see a psychologist who just so happened to be a Christian lady. My first appointment she prayed before and after the session, in a cynical tone I quipped ‘good luck with that’, she responded ‘with what?’ ‘prayer’ I said… ‘ you really believe prayer works?’. ‘Ah yes’, she warmly smiled, ‘when I pray for you I believe we have already won the battle for your healing’. Okay good for you (I thought to myself), then my thoughts went into a spin: ‘maybe this faith thing is a big hoax, or maybe we are like pawns on a chess board that God moves as He pleases’!. My pain and sorrow had me feeling negative, disillusioned and feeling very disappointed with God, if in fact He even existed.
In spite of my doubts I pushed on to keep seeing the psychologist and week after week she closed her eyes and prayed for me whilst I rolled my eyes to the ceiling anticipating ‘amen’ and anxious to get the session over with. One day, as she was praying for me, she said God had shown her that my empty arms needed filling, that the desire to love and nurture a baby had begun when I birthed our stillborn son (Connor) and this desire would not be fulfilled by anything else.
The thought of another pregnancy was frightening, I recall during labour with Connor I cried ‘ I am never doing this again’ not because of the physical pain but the pain of loss again would be too great to bear. Perhaps God would redeem what we had lost? Could He really turn our mourning into dancing? Would He eclipse our affliction with His Glory?
Somehow in the midst of doubt and unbelief God was drawing me back toward trusting in His unchanging love. Early one morning I began to pray ‘God where are you when life hurts?’ I felt Him whisper ‘I am with you… when you hurt, I hurt also’. By faith (the very little that I had) I made the decision to try for another baby – God willing, I would do it afraid rather than live with the ever-present ache of empty arms. Lee and I were blessed with another pregnancy 4 months after the loss of our baby boy.
30th March 2010 we welcomed our little girl (Jaeya) into the world. As she lay in my arms I gazed at her in awe of the miracle of life, in that moment I caught a glimpse of Jesus as His presence filled the room with peace, love and joy… our afflictions had been eclipsed by glory, for indeed God had proven to me that while He had been silent never was He absent, for God has said “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” Hebrews 13:5 (MSG)
“God is real, I am healed!” was my response after reluctantly joining a prayer group for some ‘help’. I was overflowing with joy, how is it possible to move from a deep depression into being overcome with joy? This is not the result of positive thinking, it is impossible to change a negative thought pattern in the space of a few hours, but with God all things are possible.
Through the power of prayer, I had God’s Word, the Truth, spoken into my spirit and this was the beginning of my journey back from a deep depression. Truth is powerful, the Bible tells us that the Word of God is, “living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” Hebrews 4:12. The Word is the greatest weapon of all, when you hear or read the word of God and you know the truth of who you are, when you stand firm, with true determination and resolve that you are more than a conqueror, that you are loved by God… this perseverance leads to breakthrough, without fail!
Nick Vujicic, author of “Life Without Limbs”, understood this when he said: “in life if you don’t know the truth then you cannot be free, because then you will believe that the lies are the truth”.
So why did God move in such a powerful way to bring a miracle healing upon me? I believe He answers the cry of a desperate heart, we must thirst and long for God, surrender our lives to Him completely. For most of us, we only completely surrender once there are no other options. Like me, going to a prayer group was my final attempt to get well. Begin today to truly seek Him with your whole heart and expect Him to answer your cry for help, if you feel distant from God, I assure you He is not the one who has moved.
The story is told of a young student who went to his spiritual teacher and asked the question, “Master, how can I truly find God?” The teacher asked the student to accompany him to the river which ran by the village and invited him to go into the water. When they got to the middle of the stream, the teacher said, “Please immerse yourself in the water.” The student did as he was instructed, whereupon the teacher put his hands on the young man’s head and held him under the water. Presently the student began to struggle. The master held him under still. A moment passed and the student was thrashing and beating the water and air with his arms. Still, the master held him under the water. Finally, the student was released and shot up from the water, lungs aching and gasping for air. The teacher waited for a few moments and then said, “When you desire God as truly as you desired to breathe the air you just breathed — then you shall find God.”